The San Juan Daily Star
Former DNER chief denies reduction in fines
By The Star Staff
Former Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) Secretary Tania Vazquez on Thursday denied allegations raised by a ranger sergeant who accused the agency of reducing to $3,000 from $250,000 the fines imposed against dwellers at Jobos Bay in Salinas.
“I want to clarify for the record. (On Tuesday), Sergeant Angel Colon testified before this Honorable Committee that the DNER under my tenure, awarded a fine of $3,000 in a case where the initial fine was $250,000. That agent was talking about the case DNER versus Guillermo Godreau, complaint number 15-239 SMT. This information is false,” Vazquez said during continuation of the public hearings held by the House Natural Resources Committee in relation to the environmental violations at the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in the southern coastal town.
She said the decision was made under the administration of Interim Secretary Cynthia Morales on March 11, 2020 based on the recommendation of agency counsel Claribel Diaz, whose transaction was filed in December 2019.
Ranger Sgt. Ángel Colón Colón earlier this week said the decision to reduce the fines against individuals residing illegally at the reserve, demoralized workers and law enforcement officers.
“Because if the initial cease and desist had fines of around $250,000, that is, we are talking about a quarter of a million dollars in fines, which is very clearly specified in this report, how come after two or three years, a resolution is passed saying that those fines were lowered to nothing more than $3,000,” he said. “Can you understand how we as officers are going to feel after we intervene in a high-risk area and a bucket of chilly water like that hits us? Without even [consulting] me, who was the intervening agent, or the biologist Milton Muñoz, who was the one who made the case report.”
Colón pointed out that the administration of Vázquez reduced the fines.
Meanwhile, Rafael Machargo, also a former head of the agency, assured that he has not been summoned to appear by federal agencies on the matter but by the Department of Justice.“That’s false,” Machargo said when asked by Representative Mariana Nogales.
“We received a subpoena from the Department of Justice to produce some documents and they were produced. That was on March 31 (that) the summons was received and the documents requested by the Department of Justice were produced,” he stated.
Questioned about what documents were requested in Justice, Machargo replied: “It was a subpoena from the file of the investigation that has been made of Bahía de Jobos.”